Pills | Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

How to never miss your medication: Medisafe App Review

Paul RykenFirst Published: Last Updated: Work from anywhere 2 Comments

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Taking medication as prescribed shouldn’t be difficult. But when life gets busy we might forget a dose, especially if taking medication is not a regular habit (yet). In some cases, missing a dose is not a big issue. In other cases, it can be life-threatening. So if you are looking for a solution that helps you (or someone you care for) stick to your/their medication regime this article might lead you to the right option. Over the last few months, I have tested several mobile apps that allow you to schedule and remind you to take your medication and reviewed one of them – the Medisafe Meds and Pill Reminder app – in detail.

Before we go into the detail though, why would someone like me review medication reminder apps?

How did this review come about?

At the end of July 2020, my son Matt, who has cystic fibrosis, received new lungs. At age 26, Matt has been given a new lease of life and a quality of life he has never had before (all thanks to the generous gift of his donor and their family). The transplant though also means that Matt will have to take immunosuppressant medication for the rest of his life.

While Matt was fortunate (if you can call it that) that he had been taking drugs all his life, his new medication regime is different and very complicated. Also, as a transplant recipient, he needed to adjust his lifestyle significantly to minimize the risk of infection.

When Matt was released from the hospital, he received a paper notebook to document all his drugs and when he took them. We knew right away: With up to 30% of transplant recipients reporting missing medication doses or non-adherence to their medication regime, a paper notebook wasn’t going to do the job. These missed doses can lead to serious problems including acute rejection, chronic transplant damage and ultimately the failure of the organ. So, a better solution needed to be found.

Medisafe Reported Drug Adherence by Geography
Drug Adherence by Geography | Image and data courtesy of Medisafe

I had used an app called My Pain Diary & Symptom Tracker for several years. I considered this as an option, but as I’d recently hanged smartphone operating systems and My Pain Diary didn’t support it, I wanted to see what else was on the market. And that’s how I stumbled upon the Medisafe Meds and Pill Reminder app (the Medisafe app in short).

For full disclosure, after I identified the Medisafe app as the best contender, I approached Medisafe, who provided Matt and me with Premium Subscriptions, knowing that I would be writing an unbiased review. Matt and I have been using the app now for three months.

What app features did I consider to be important?

Before starting my research and narrowing down the options I put together a list of features I felt were important:

  • Scheduled reminders/notifications
  • Reportability of data entered
  • Good value for money
  • Good customer reviews
  • Available across multiple operating platforms (Windows, Android, iOS)
  • Security, privacy and data protection (based on standards adhered to, encryption used, data storage policies, ability to remain anonymous)
  • Data sharing (none or depersonalised) and remote accessibility (through cloud storage)
  • Regular bug fixes and feature upgrades
  • Developer credibility (based on tenure, standards adhered to, programming language).
Medication Bottle | Photo by Olga DeLawrence on Unsplash
Remembering to take your medication is a lot easier with a reminder app | Photo by Olga DeLawrence on Unsplash

What apps made it onto my shortlist?

Using my criteria list, I identified the following apps (in alphabetical order) which I then tested (to the extent possible):

Only one covered almost all of my requirements: the Medisafe Meds and Pill Reminder app. Although it is not perfect, it was certainly much better than all the others. So, if you are searching for a medication reminder app, I can recommend the Medisafe app.

How does the Medisafe app work?

Set-Up

Firstly, you need to add the medication you are taking or plan to take. When you enter the drug name the app displays search results from its drug database. You can select the form of medication (for example, pill, solution, injection, drops, inhaler, etc) and strength (for example, g, IU, mcg, r, etc), and what you are taking it for.

Medisafe Add Medication
Using the generic drug name, you can search the Medisafe database
Medisafe Medication Form
The Medisafe app steps you through the data needed when adding your medication.
Medisafe Add Strength
Medisafe is smart enough to know the measurement types for each medication

Secondly, you need to enter whether you are taking the medication every day or only as needed, how often and at what time of the day you take the first dose. You may have medication, vitamins or supplements (in your medicine cabinet) that you only take occasionally, such as headache tablets. Make sure you add those to the app. That way, if you do take it, you can record it quickly and easily as an As Needed dose.

Medisafe How Often
Medisafe is extremely flexible with its frequency options
Medisafe How Often 2
Different prompts appear depending on your responses on each page
Medisafe Time of Day 2
You can also choose the classical set-up based on time of day

Finally, you can select the actual time for each dosage reminder. Reminders can be selected from a list of 14 different voices (including Darth Vader or Morgan Freeman) or customised. The app also allows you to change the medication icon, add medication instructions, limit the treatment duration and set up refill reminders.

Medisafe Voices
Want Darth Vader or Morgan Freeman to remind you to take your medication?
Medisafe Medication Icons
Create icons that match the shape and color of your pills
Medisafe Medication Instructions
Add extra information about your medication in the Medisafe app

Drug Database

The Medisafe drug database is comprehensive, containing both over the counter and prescription drugs. That said, if the drug you are taking is not in the database, you can manually add the drug name yourself. In our case, the drug database occasionally has US-based drug names, so you have to search for the generic or common name of the drug and even then it is not always there.

For drugs in the database, an information page outlines in plain English

  • potential interactions with the specific medicine
  • what happens if I miss a dose
  • what I should watch for while using the medicine, and
  • potential side effects?
Medisafe Drug Information
Drug information is shown for all drugs stored in the Medisafe database

Complex Dose Schedule

One feature where many of the other medication apps struggle is dose schedule flexibility. With Medisafe, you can select frequencies such as how many times a day (up to 12 times), every number of hours (from 1 to 12 hours), for a specific number of days, on a specific day of the week and more. I am yet to come across a schedule that the Medisafe app can’t accommodate.

US customers seem to be alerted when any of their prescribed medications should not be taken together. This is a powerful feature but unfortunately, one I wasn’t able to test as I am currently in New Zealand.

Medisafe Drug Interactions
US customers are alerted of drug interactions | Image courtesy of Medisafe

Dosage Reminder

One of the best features of the app is that it sends reminders to your mobile phone (make sure your mobile phone is set up to receive notifications). You can choose to take your medication (and record it), skip it or snooze the reminder. I have set mine up so that the notification requires action before I can use my other phone functions.

The app allows you to set up a different time to take your medication on the weekend. How very thoughtful for those who like to sleep in. And if you change time zones, the app recognizes your location and alters the time accordingly. Even more thoughtful.

Another powerful feature of the app is its ability to send a missed medication notification to your Medfriend – a person whom you share your data with. If you forget to take a medication (or forget to record it in the app), Medisafe will send a notification to your Medfriend, so that they can remind you to take your medication. A good back-up, especially as you get used to a new medication regime. Your Medfriend would need to download the Medisafe app and create an account in order to sync with you. And you both need to have an internet connection for the information to sync.

Medisafe Notification
Medisafe notifications on your mobile phone are hard to ignore
Medisafe Skip
You can't skip a medication dose without recording the reason

Refill Reminder

When you initially add medication to the app, you can add the number of doses available. When the doses have reached a specific amount (of your choosing), you will be reminded to refill them. Matt set his refill reminder at 10 days before he runs out, but everyone’s situation will be different.

Doctor’s Appointments

The app allows you to add your Doctor’s details, the medication they have prescribed to you and any appointments you have with them. This level of detail is great if you have a team of different medical experts managing your health (and medication).

Medisafe Doctors Appointment
Enter your doctor's details, then assign appointments and prescriptions

Drug Reporting

Any platform or database service loses its appeal if you can’t share information, and this is where the Medisafe app itself could do better. The app’s reporting functionality is not easy to navigate:

  • There is a report page but all you can do from here is export data to Excel (for all medications or a specific one in a daily, weekly, monthly or annual report format).
  • From the measurements page, you can create a status report (in PDF format) and select the recipient you wish to send it to – yourself or your nominated doctor (if you allow access to your contacts and email account). For this report, you can select the From/To dates and medications you want to include. The report is sent instantly and incorporates your adherence (whether you have taken or missed medication) as well as any notes associated with your schedule.

Although not prominently promoted, there is a browser-version and in here, you show/hide scheduled and added doses and measurements as well as filter by seven variables all the while being able to download the data as a PDF or email to a recipient.

I would recommend that if you do want to export any data from the what you have entered, you use the Medisafe Patient Portal as the reports here are much more comprehensive. You just use the same credentials you used in the smartphone app in the web browser.

doctor checking smartphone
Send a comprehensive report to your doctor directly from the Medisafe app | Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Health Measurement Tracking

For many illnesses, it’s important to not only record the medication taken but also specific health statistics such as blood pressure, blood glucose, pain levels, oxygen saturation (Sp02), temperature and weight. The Medisafe app allows you to record 20+ different measurements.

Do you want to stay fit and healthy so that you can do whatever it is that gets you up in the morning? We use health and fitness apps. Check out here which ones we can recommend.

Privacy And Data Security

While it is always difficult to verify, Medisafe advises that they are HIPAA compliant, GDPR-compliant, ISO 27001 certified and utilize the highest-available 256-bit data encryption. Upholding these credentials as their standards means that they show a duty of care towards their users and the data that is entrusted to them.

The personal information you input into the app is unique and belongs to you. If your personal medical data was ever leaked, someone could use it for their own gain, to cause financial loss or harm your reputation. And it is very different from financial data, which is better protected and regulated. For example, if your credit card number was lost or stolen, you could block that number and have a new credit card issued.

If you decide to download the app ensure you read the Medisafe App privacy policy and terms and conditions of use. If you are not happy don’t use the app.

Web-Based Patient Portal

As mentioned, there is a browser-version, but it is primarily limited to view and report functionality. You cannot fully manage, edit, or change your meds there. As explained by Brian Carr, VP Medisafe, these functions as app-centric to have a single source of truth as it were to prevent the possibility of under or overdosing when tracked in multiple instances.

With the Web Portal it’s easier to:

  • View your medication list and adherence history
  • Filter and sort the reports
  • Focus only on what you need
  • See all your medications, measurements, and appointments in the calendar
  • Share your reports with your trusted medical advisor.
Medisafe App Review
  • Overall Rating
    (4.5)
  • Medication Management
    (4.5)
  • Adherence
    (5)
  • User Experience
    (4.5)
  • Connectivity
    (4)
4.5

Summary

Overall Rating
This is a great all-round app with extensive features that are not always immediately obvious. As a free app, it fulfils the needs of the average medication taker, but the premium version means that you can collect a lot more data.

It is not a pain management app so does not have the features you may require if you suffer from chronic pain. That said, pain levels can be recorded as one of the measurements.

Medication Management
When you start adding your medication, the app guides you through its data collection process. While you can choose the form and create an icon for the medication, what is missing is the ability to take a photo of the pill or the medication packaging.

Adherence
One of the strongest features of the app is its ability to enforce adherence through mobile technology. When you open the app, the screen displays today’s medication schedule. Using strong color coding and images, you can easily tell which medication has been taken (or missed). Of course, it does require that you have set up your medication and reminders correctly in the first place.

User Experience
The app is not the most intuitive. When you first open the app it is not immediately clear what you are meant to be doing. That said, once you start adding medications it does lead you through the process step by step.

Also, some of the app’s features are not obvious. For example, the status report is not accessible through the reports page but through the measurements page. And on the measurements page, it is not obvious where you create the report. You have to play around a bit to get an understanding of the app.

Other improvement opportunities include the ability to search FAQs and sync doctor’s appointments with any email system.

Connectivity
As Matt’s Medfriend, I receive notifications when he missed a dose (or forgot to record it in the app). We experienced delays of up to 4 hours between the time he was expected to take the medication and me receiving the notification. If he indeed forgot to take his medication such a delay could be dangerous.

He uses an iPhone and I an Android phone, but that shouldn’t matter. This is another piece of functionality the Medisafe app can (and needs) to improve upon.

Pros

  • Reasonably comprehensive free version (though for more complex needs, the Premium version is recommended)
  • Great for diabetics as you can record your blood-sugar in Measurements and add insulin as an As Needed medication
  • Home screen timeline shows medication reminders and medical appointments
  • Smartwatch users can see the medication reminder and record responses on their watch

Cons

  • Doctor’s appointments only sync with Gmail
  • Although the Help and Support section offers a large Frequently Asked Questions section, there is no search functionality so you need to scroll through the list of questions to see if the answer is there
  • Can’t add an image to a medication or create a stand-alone report of notes
  • Unable to disable specific notifications such as summary reports, rare medication information, etc (although it is on the feature request list)
  • Can’t add custom values to Measurements (although it is on the feature request list)

Beta User Version

If you are keen to have access to up and coming features before they are officially released, you can enrol in the beta programme via the Google Play or Apple Apps Download page. And just as easily, you can go back to the regular apps which have been fully-tested.

How much does the Medisafe app cost?

LocationFreePremium
Monthly priceFreeUSD7.49
Annual priceFreeUSD54.99

How do the app’s free and premium features compare?

The Medisafe app free version is already comprehensive. For our purposes, the value of the Premium version was its ability to capture unlimited measurements.

FreePremium
No registration is requiredAll Free features plus (i) access to more theme colors, (ii) ability to change medication icon, (iii) priority support and (iv) no banner ads
Ability to capture 27 standard measurementsAbility to capture unlimited measurements
One MedfriendUnlimited Medfriends
Receive up to 10 reminders per medicationSame
Alter notification times on weekendsSame
Snooze for 5, 10, 15, 30, 60 or 120 minutes, or until home/work (whenever you are reminded)Same
Must record reason if medication is skippedSame
Save locations to re-send snoozed reminders once at home/workSame
Display notifications as popups, only when screen is on or not at allSame
Set reminder text at a global levelSame
Set vibrate for remindersSame
Show or hide medication name when receiving a reminderSame
Set a daily reminder to take medications with you when you leave homeSame
Receive a daily reminder of any missed medications during the daySame
Receive a weekly summary of medicationsSame
Set refill reminder based on the number of pills remainingSame
Automatic time zone detectionSame

Do you use the Medisafe app? If so, what has been your experience? If not, which app do you use and why? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Feature photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

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Comments 2

  1. I keep updating my pill colors, but despite doing so a day or 2 later, some to many are changed.

    I’m used to a complicated regimen, but right now mine is ridiculous. But I’m home, not in the hospital so I’m doing it. My husband is my assistant. He’s not at all used to it, and having the reinforcing correct color image would help.

    I’m taking meds at 1am/3am and every hour from 5am-9m.

    And yes. I hit update every time I change one and save it.

    Any ideas on how to keep my meds the color they actually are? I would be grateful.

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Jeanne, my first recommendation is, assuming you have an account with Medisafe and don’t just store the data locally, is to log out of your device and log back in. This sometimes helps to re-sync the data and the parameters. If this doesn’t work, I do recommend contacting Medisafe directly for assistance. I have always found their email support to be responsive.

      Cheers, Paul

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